4 essential tips for a great drug and alcohol policy

Drug and Alcohol Testing Strategy

Great drug and alcohol testing policy starts with great strategy.   Most people come to us because they have discovered an issue and need to deal with it.  That’s ok, because we can deal with urgent testing quickly and get things moving to a resolution.  The bigger issue is what about the longer term?

If you are honest about wanting long term safety in your organisation, creating a change for the better and making sure that those who need to change are encouraged to do so, then you need to take a step back and look at what is really going on.  Who are you as an organisation and what kind of a relationship do you want with your staff?

Remember the key is that in any major testing program, by far the largest part of your staff are not going to be at work with drugs or alcohol in their system.  They are average people who just want to get their job done.

The primary purpose of a testing program is to ensure the safety of workers and the public.  The best drug and alcohol testing strategy seeks to deal with positive results effectively, create deterrence in the workplace for drugs and alcohol and maintains a focus on a harmony workplace.

Consulting about Drug and Alcohol Policy

A key to getting this right is developing good policy from strategy through robust consultation.  Getting us involved is part of the process of ensuring technical accuracy and compliance.   Engaging with key stakeholders is vital.

Engage with management and executive leadership, unions, safety committees and even consider engaging different ethnic and indigenous groups within your workplace to ensure that cultural and other considerations are able to be integrated to a fair and equitable testing landscape.  This is not to say that any one group should receive preferential treatment, but good communication and information at this stage will ensure that implementation is far smoother.

Making Sure Everything is Included

A two-page policy and procedure just won’t cut it.  There are too many things that can go wrong if you don’t cover all the issues.  We often review and advise on improving policies that cut corners, don’t adequately address key issues, avoid issues altogether, are overly harsh or don’t apply adequate sanctions and many other technical and logical issues.
A drug and alcohol policy is about compliance with many competing factors including Human and Industrial Relations Legislation and practice, Australian Standards, Case Law and of course simple industry best practice.  It is a fine balance between respecting the privacy and dignity of individuals whilst at the same time ensuring the safety of the workplace.  Getting even seemingly small elements wrong, is a recipe for all sorts of issues.  Even experienced professionals can fall foul of any of the many pitfalls in this area if they are not used to dealing in the Drug and Alcohol arena.

We can provide you with a template to assist you in your development of AOD policy and procedures.

Get the Technical Parts Right

What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out; quite a lot.

Just some of the issues that we see include procedures that deal with Urine testing but reference Oral Fluid Standards or even the drug concentrations for Oral Fluid testing or vice versa.  We see policies that don’t adequately address the use of prescription and over the counter medications.  We see many documents that don’t address a refusal to test or the use of adulterants or substitution of samples.  Often, we see organisations that don’t understand the process by which drug and alcohol testing occurs and miss or ignore important steps that create major loopholes.

The consequences of getting it wrong can be quite disastrous including rendering your policy and procedure legally indefensible and creating the potential for unfair dismissal claims.  More importantly, getting it wrong can mean that staff and management may lose confidence in the AOD Program forcing a cessation of testing and potentially a complete reset costing thousands of dollars and weeks or months.

Take care with free policies. A quick acid test is to search to see if the words “impair” or being “under the influence” are present. If they are then the policy is  bound to be technically incorrect.